Another World Cup campaign remained undone as India were knocked out of the semi-finals of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup by defending champions Australia.
When the Women in Blue took to the field at the Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town in the semi-final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, they had the idea of halting the Australian juggernaut in this tournament in their minds.
Australia had made it to the last six finals of the T20 World Cup and were the defending champions. India had also learnt the lesson the hard way when, in front of a roaring and lively Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2020, the hosts made light work of Harmanpreet Kaur’s troops.
Still, they continued to hope against hope that this time, they would have the last laugh. Of course, life had other ideas.
India’s fielding on that day was extremely abysmal and unworthy of a professional cricketing side. Both Beth Mooney and Meg Lanning, who finished as Australia’s highest run-scorers in that match, were handed three lifelines combined. Moreover, the sloppy fielding also resulted in the holders clinching at least 15 runs which ended up becoming the difference between the two sides.
The bowling was also pedestrian as the Indian bowlers failed to outthink the opposition and fell prey to their plans. Besides Shikha Pandey’s two wickets, there was nothing else to write home about and Australia finished with a monumental total of 172/4.
Therefore, when India lost three wickets inside just 22 balls in their run-chase and both openers Smriti Mandhana and Shafali Verma were back in the dugout, the fears had returned. India had choked again, they had fallen victims to the mess they themselves created.
After all the near misses and horrible collapses over the years - the final of the 2017 ICC Women’s World Cup and the Commonwealth Games final against Australia last year being the most notable - it had become something of a popular notion, one that didn’t inspire a clear solution.
However, Harmanpreet Kaur and Jemimah Rodrigues had other ideas. The two batters joined forces in the middle to lead the counter-charge and take the game to the Australian bowlers. Rodrigues, especially, looked spellbinding and stunning while Harmanpreet, who had spent the previous day in the hospital after falling ill, was gritty and dogged.
It was because of their 69-run partnership that India went from being completely blown away by the opposition to coming agonizingly close to victory. Former head coach WV Raman sees this as a sign of clear progress for the Women in Blue and on another day, things could’ve swung their way.
"The best thing about India was the way they chased. During the innings break, they would have felt disappointed and their spirits would have been down because of a few mistakes made on the field and some extra runs conceded. But when they came out to bat, they did not allow that to deflate them or dampen their spirits. That is a huge progress as far as the team is concerned. T20 has a lot of emotional highs and lows, on that front they did really well," he said.
The rebuilding process is set to take place once again as India will look to press the reset button after yet another failed World Cup campaign. The World Cup trophy continues to haunt them and change presents itself in the form of the Women’s Premier League, whose auction took place during the T20 World Cup campaign.
A new generation of women’s cricketers will receive the limelight while the existing stars will be able to hone out their crafts and exchange experience and information. All of it is only going to have a transformative effect on the Indian side.
There is a need to provide an environment where independent thinking and personalities are allowed to evolve. That is when they will go and do what is required. You cannot be moulding one sort of a personality off the field and expect them to contradict it on the pitch. Unless they have the freedom to figure things out themselves as individuals, it becomes difficult for them to do so as cricketers.
"It will be of help [mental and conditioning coaches] but mental toughness does not come overnight. It has to be a holistic approach," Raman further added.